Analyzing Metabolites in Body Fluids with NMR for Early Disease Detection

An analytical technique which enables molecule identification and quantification, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy operates by using the magnetic fields of atomic nuclei in order to provide molecular structural information.

Applications of NMR in Cell Biology

A robust technique, it is possible to use NMR in order to identify and quantify a large variety of molecules, including metabolites in cells, tissues, organisms, and biofluids.

Metabolites occur in biofluids such as plasma, serum, and urine due to biochemical processes which occur in tissues and cells. These metabolites can give an insight into the function of these tissues and cells. Consequently, the detection and quantification of metabolites are used to diagnose a range of conditions and diseases.

Imperial College London’s Professor Elaine Holmes and the University of Florence’s Professor Claudio Luchinat use this seminar in order to explain how it is possible to use NMR for the identification and quantification of metabolites in biofluids.

They outline how metabolomics databases can be developed from data in order to enable research into early disease detection and personalized disease treatment.

In-Vitro Diagnostic Research (IVDr) NMR Platform

Further to this, Bruker BioSpin’s Dr. Manfred Spraul introduces the company’s in vitro diagnostic research (IVDr) NMR platform, designed for data sharing and automated, standardized NMR analysis.

In order to research metabolites which indicate the early or future development of diseases, an enormous amount of data is required. It is also necessary to undertake statistical analyses comparing the metabolomic profiles of healthy people, with those of people who have or go on to develop a disease.

Standardized protocols and methods, which facilitate the comparison of data between machines and institutions, are required in order to develop comprehensive metabolomics databases.

The comparison of data across institutions is particularly vital for research into rare diseases. This is because a single center is unlikely to have enough samples or patients in order to provide adequate data for metabolite statistical analysis.

A Transferable Analytical Method

NMR constitutes one of the most transferable analytical methods. Moreover, detailed structural information - which facilitates the identification of a wide variety of molecules which are simultaneously present in a sample – is provided by NMR. This makes it the perfect analytical technique for building metabolic databases and conducting metabolomics research.

Even though NMR constitutes one of the most transferable analytical methods, it remains pivotal that standardized procedures are developed and used in order to guarantee reproducibility.

Professor Holmes and Professor Luchinat use the webinar to explain how the metabolomics profiles which NMR obtains can differentiate between normal populations and diseased ones, in order to detect diseases such as celiac disease heart failure early.

Further to this, research which demonstrates metabolomics’ ability to identify pregnant women who may be at risk of pre-term birth, predict reoccurrence of breast cancer, indicate the efficacy of treatment, and predict terminally ill patients’ lifespan, is presented by the professors.

NMR Fingerprinting Analyses

NMR fingerprinting analyses are pivotal to early research into metabolomics profiles for the detection and prediction of diseases. These analyses involve the recording of all complete NMR spectra and using statistical analysis in order to differentiate between metabolic profiles. Even though high statistical power is provided by fingerprinting, this method does not quantify or identify individual metabolites.

Conversely, NMR profiling can identify individual metabolites which are present in an NMR spectrum. This may reduce the method’s statistical power, however it provides additional biological understanding and increases transferability.

Professor Holmes uses the webinar to explain how methods of NMR profiling are being improved in order to deliver increases in predictive power, as well as high correlation between fingerprinting and profiling methods.

Dr. Spraul uses the webinar to introduce the IVDr platform, which a lot of metabolomics research groups – including the groups of Professors Luchinat and Holmes – use. The IVDr makes use of automatic procedures in order to automatically quantify 114 lipoproteins and 26 small molecules using NMR profiling.

In order to make sure that data can be shared across the globe, standardized analysis tools and operating procedures were provided for all steps of sample collection, preparation, storage, and analysis.


In this manner, a large pool of metabolomics data is made available by the IVDr platform for statistical analysis. This speeds up research into personalized medicine and improved diagnostic methods.

About Bruker BioSpin - NMR, EPR and Imaging

Bruker BioSpin offers the world's most comprehensive range of NMR and EPR spectroscopy and preclinical research tools. Bruker BioSpin develops, manufactures and supplies technology to research establishments, commercial enterprises and multi-national corporations across countless industries and fields of expertise.

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Last updated: May 2, 2019 at 8:00 AM


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